When it comes to starting an eCommerce business, there are tons of different platforms to choose from. Without much experience or research, it’s possible you’ll choose an option that’s not ideal for your business – or one that’s painful enough that you’ll need to re-platform, which can be a huge undertaking.
If you’re having trouble choosing, this guide will help you see why you should consider WordPress as your eCommerce platform. It isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone in every situation, but from my perspective, it’s pretty much always the way to go. However, it’s always a good idea to consider other great eCommerce platforms as well.
Let’s explore some of the top benefits associated with building eCommerce sites on WordPress.
Fast and SEO-Friendly
As a platform, WordPress is built with clean code, so that it will load quickly and will be easy for search engines to index quickly and accurately. You’ll still have to work on tweaking some settings and optimizing your pages, but you can trust that the source code is solid. You do not have to be or work with a professional designer to end up with a professional quality WordPress site – with a little bit of help from Google, it’s possible to do all the work on your own.
One thing to keep in mind as you choose themes and plugins, though, is that not all of them are coded to the same standard. It’s possible you can end up with something that will bog your site down and slow download time, harming the user experience. That’s why it’s important to pay close attention to the reviews and how often the theme or plugin is updated. The more frequent the updates, the more secure, functional, and fast your website will be. If it hasn’t been updated within the last couple of years, you’ll want to find an alternative.
If you want to check themes and plugins for code issues, you can do so using the WPScan Vulnerability Database, which currently lists 14,168 problems to watch out for. But for the most part, if you trust “the wisdom of the crowd” and read reviews and update logs, you can’t go wrong.
You Have More Control
Using a “black box” SaaS-based eCommerce platform like Shopify or Squarespace means you are limited by what they offer. Because you’re paying for the service every month, they host everything for you. They also handle all the technical aspects of the site, which definitely has value, but it also means you don’t have as much control over various parts of the process.
For instance, you’re limited only to the available templates they offer. You don’t have control of many elements that affect page speed, or the servers that are hosting your account.
With WordPress, you choose the host you want to use, so you have more granular control over features, design, and more. And with more and more leading eCommerce platforms offering deep WordPress integrations – including one from BigCommerce, which rolled out last summer – you don’t need to feel limited.
Tons of Quality Themes
WordPress has a huge library of themes to control the look and feel of your website. Many themes are available for free, though those are limited in terms of flexibility, customization, and support. There are also a number of developers out there that offer premium themes specifically for eCommerce websites. When built well, these themes are designed with speed and user experience in mind, and they make it easy for you to customize various parts of your site such as your logo, header, and product pages.
Premium themes are usually the way to go because you’ll get good support if you need help customizing or troubleshooting your site. However, just because the theme says it’s coded to high standards for SEO doesn’t mean that’s always the case.
The more built-in customization features it has, the more bloated it will be. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for just what you need, and not something that will have a ton of features you can’t or do not need to use.
Variety of Plugins to Add Functionality
Thanks to the huge number of plugins built to expand WordPress, it’s easy to add functionality to your website. Out of the box, WordPress can be set up for any number of site types, and using a plugin simply allows you to add your product catalog and a shopping cart.
You can also use plugins to add things such as contact forms, ratings, photo galleries, and related products. For example, one popular SEO plugin, SEOPress, has both a free version and a premium version with additional features.
Because of how popular WordPress’s platform is, many of the other platforms you use over the course of running your business – such as your customer relationship management (CRM) software, your accounting software, and your point of sale (POS) system – are compatible with WordPress. This means you won’t have to worry if you want to use any third-party software to scale your business, since your website is already built to play nicely with them.
It’s More Affordable
Because WordPress itself is free, and many of the premium themes and plugins you use to build your site involve one-time fees, the only thing you have to pay for on a regular basis is the web hosting platform you use.
You can find these for as little as $4/month, which is a great deal of savings compared to a hosted solution that could easily have you paying $30+ a month. And because hosting plans can be procured on an annual basis, you can save a great deal on your overhead.
If you don’t have the budget to purchase premium themes or plugins, you can use free options to get started. And because there’s so much documentation on WordPress, you can find ways to do much of the customizations yourself, rather than having to hire a professional to handle it.
WordPress or Bust
There are other options for eCommerce available, but WordPress is the one that will give you the greatest amount of freedom, flexibility, and control. It’s a cost-effective way to get started, especially if you have a large number of products in your inventory since many platforms charge more based on the number of products in your catalog.
If it wasn’t such a powerful content management system (CMS), it wouldn’t power 30% of the sites on the web today.